Sunday, June 17, 2007

Burdett shines in third Bangkok mystery

Books now read in ’07: 57
Title: Bangkok Haunts
Author: John Burdett
Genre: Fiction
Date Completed: 6-17
Pages: 290

There’s nothing in Western culture to prepare a reader for the premise of Bangkok Haunts, the third in John Burdett’s thoroughly engaging series featuring his Thai detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep.

A Buddhist, Sonchai may be the only honest officer in the entire Royal Thai Police force. Essentially, it means that Sonchai must adopt the very Western practice of managing up and managing down – he has to keep his corrupt bosses content even as he persists in investigating a homicide they don’t want investigated.

The homicide involves a Thai prostitute, murdered in the making of a snuff film. It’s complicated – in the way all mysteries are – because the murdered girl was once Sonchai’s lover, and her ghost still visits him.

About that ghost. That’s where the dichotomies lies for the rational Western mind. There will be no spoilers here – suffice to say that the ghost of the murdered girl plays a pivotal role in Bangkok Haunts.

As with the first two books, Burdett weaves an engrossing tale as we continue to learn about the unique worldview of the Thai mind, the nation’s food, it’s sex trade and its corrupt police force. Sonchai Jitpleecheep is among the more creative mystery detectives to emerge in a long, long time and this current mystery almost taxes even his great skills of detection – almost.

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